“The Hope of the Local Church”
A good friend of mine and of SpringHill’s, Ron Nobles, in making a case for ministry to young people made this statement “As Bill Hybels says, ‘the local church is the hope of the world’, if this is true then the hope of the local church are young people.” This reality is what pushed SpringHill and the Willow Creek Association (http://www.willowcreek.com/) to join together in pursuit of understanding the key’s to the spiritual development of late elementary age kids (4th thru 6th graders) much like the WCA Reveal study did for understanding the spiritual development of adults.
In partnership with the WCA last summer we surveyed over 800 4th thru 6th graders in our Michigan overnight camp. This was followed by the “slicing and dicing” of the analysts of the WCA of all the data we collected from these 800 plus campers.
Here are the major findings (none of which are surprising if we allow the Scriptures, church history and common sense to direct our steps):
1. What is the key to the spiritual development of kids? Engaging in Spiritual practices especially prayer and Scripture reading.
2. What is the key to kids engaging in spiritual practices? Their parents!
3. What is the key to parents being effective as the spiritual mentors to their children? Spiritual Maturity
4. What is the key to the spiritual maturity of parents? Engage in spiritual practices.
So implications of these results and open questions yet to pursue?
1. We, the local church and para church ministries, need to help parents grow spiritually by helping them develop the spiritual practices that lead to spiritual maturity. (This is much simpler and more fruitful for the kids and parents than training parents to be Bible teachers, theologians, etc.)
2. How do church and para church ministries help encourage kids in their spiritual practices when they do not have role models at home? How does this follow-up happen effectively? This is an incredible opportunity to make a long- term, history changing, eternal impact on the lives of people and the entire world.
3. Can this follow-up with kids lead to impacting their parents in their spiritual growth? Here is what one SpringHill parent said that leads us to believe this can be done. “The counselors really tried to get to know each child personally & make them feel included. Our son developed a deep interest in God that we have been very neglectful in. We will take this lead and all begin to put God first again. Thanks.”
Ron is absolutely correct, from a strategic long-term standpoint there is nothing more important to the local church than the spiritual development of young people. The great news is that the most effective way to impact young people is to impact their parents. Impact their parents and in the end you impact the local church today and into the future. With the local church strong and healthy than the local church can be “the hope of the world.”